Last week the Times printed its 100 best restaurants – and we were not featured, which caused me to consider what constitutes a “good” restaurant or indeed a “best” one.
This was not sparked by sour grapes- I have generally been happy with our low profile 2 rosette status as a popular neighbourhood restaurant- but just who puts together these arbitrary listings?
Indeed, we did recently receive a listing in The Times most Romantic Restaurants in UK.
I am most proud of our longevity and the good people who have worked for us for long periods; the chefs we have encouraged, the matches we have made and the jobs that we have created. So many friendships nurtured with good food, wine and laughter.
I am proud too, that we have paid all our bills for 35 years without default.
And I am proud too of our loyal customer base, many of whom have followed us from the King’s Head in Cuckfield - the unacknowledged precursor of the gastro pub phenomenon, which thanks to the commercial nouse of the then landlord Martin Lindlay, laid the foundation for the Jeremy’s restaurant story (Martin offered us his vacant saloon bar and tiny kitchen).
That was in 1985 - not the late - 90s, as attributed by author Carol Godsmark in last week’s Observer in an article about rural pubs using local produce.
We were discovered by the late Jeremy Round at the King’s Head in 1986 cooking local and seasonal food and have been in the Good Food Guide ever since.
Playing a role in the blossoming of gastronomy and the dining out culture in our country has taken us on a truly thrilling ride.
I have witnessed exciting developments in cooking and a lot of nonsense too.
We have also eaten wonderful food in stuffy expensive places that don’t to my mind deliver the “Best” experience.
In recent times I have been lucky to have had a brilliant young chef(Jimmy Gray) to help modernise our food and inspire our kitchen to new heights; and I bless him for his lack of ego and his modesty. He understands that the customer experience is paramount and that the quality of service is as crucial as the food.
Arguably, even more important is customer recognition by the staff. That is only possible with good staff retention and it’s surely timely to praise and thank Joanne, Cyril, Isabelle, Ciccio and Daniel (Merlin) for the years of loyalty and looking after our exceptional clientele.
Going forward, as they say in corporate speak, we will continue to be the “Best” that we can be. That’s good enough for me but I wouldn’t mind a bit more recognition for the good people who work so hard to help make us special, and maybe a gong myself for being one of the oldest kids on the block.